Thorsby Mayor Barry Rasch is announcing his intentions to run as a candidate for the upcoming mayoral election—the first mayoral election in many years. “I believe I have the spirit, the energy and the drive to take Thorsby into the next four years.” Rasch has served three 3-year terms on council with one term as mayor.
“If successful running for mayor, there are some key areas I want to focus on (and certainly Council will have their own views):
Solid Planning: "I'd like to see 3, 5, and 10-year plans. There are always things that come up and Council has done a lot with the Strategic Plan, the Parks and Rec Master Plan; but, where we really need to focus for planning purposes is on roads and infrastructure. People want to know a timeline of when their roads will be repaved or road work done and infrastructure upgrades made. So we have to continue strategizing and preparing a solid plan. Not easy to do when things come at us that are unbudgeted–it could potentially throw off the plan.
"We've worked diligently on securing quality, good tasting water with our new water treatment plant. So that is, in essence, completed. But the infrastructure still needs to be reviewed. We still need to know where the areas of risk are. And certainly the infrastructure needs to be improved upon if those areas are at risk and then, and only then, should we do the road works.
Departmental Planning: I really want to press hard for departmental planning so that staff have a very clear direction to work towards and that we are always working together as a team. I’d specifically focus on the Public Works Department because they deal with infrastructure; and our Administration. They will have to identify areas, and we will have to find the money and then prioritize. Keeping solid relationships with staff and administration is essential; but without solid planning there is no solid direction going forward. Whether a resident or business, we all deserve to know where we're going.
Promote environment: “My personal style is to get physically involved in a project. I like to physically get out and do the work associated with the project. That's what I believe makes a community…what makes a councillor what they are. Councillors would have a much better idea of what the Village needs when they work ‘hands-on’ on a project—and not just verbalize.”
Can you share examples of your hands-on approach?
“Yes, I’ve researched and applied for grants: two recycling bin grants that were $15,000 each. Those bins are placed all throughout the community. Also, the Fortis Alberta Community Naturalization grant for $3,000. And other grants and nominations that were not successful.
“I also believe in doing work with Communities in Bloom program as Chair and I work with all the planning aspects, the budgeting, and a significant amount of organizing. I physically get out there to work on improvements that need to be done.
For example, planting the trees for grounds enhancement at the Arctic Spas Rec Centre with no costs associated to the municipality or the ratepayers of Thorsby.
“Recently, another dedicated community member, Glen Taylor, and I put up a message board at the Lions' Campground. I believe big things matter, but so do the little ones and it's important not to lose site of the little things because they can be just as important and may be noticed more.”
Revitalizing Main Street is “another focus area in order to encourage people to set up shop and to shop at and to have a main street to be proud of. The challenges of larger communities with big box stores are significant. How do you maintain your retail shops when so many want to travel to the big box stores, or want instant access to options when we are restricted on what we can provide as far as hours of operation and product availability? It takes a community buy-in. It won’t be a simple fix.”
“I certainly see us getting a higher residential base because people love the community and want to raise their families here. The demographics is this is a young community and will remain so. I see the Village is slowly attracting more business options. I see we are becoming a service community (with essential services like plumbing or heating or culverts that need replacing or machining that needs to be done for the farmers, and other commercial businesses) not necessarily retail options. There is a lot of interest to set up commercial businesses. What does that mean?
“How do we keep our kids here? Some are taking courses in Leduc because of lack of options here. Why is that happening? When kids leave, eventually the parents leave. We have to continue putting pressure on Black Gold [School District] to offer the programs to keep the families here. I’m not going to accept ‘you have a rural community with a small population…you don’t get those options.’ That’s not an okay answer and I will be knocking on their door demanding better.
It takes community working together—if the schools and businesses and Administration and Council are working with Council, we are unstoppable whichever direction we go. The key is working through our challenges with great communication and a great plan.
“This year, I’ve pushed ‘let’s be proud of where we come from.’ Let’s fly the colors! If that means shirts with our logo on them…getting our name out there, that’s huge! I’m passionate about our community. I work hard for Thorsby because I’ve always believed in what I’m working for and I’ve always believed in what the community stands for. We are not there to second guess, but to work as a cohesive group. I am easy to work with and passionate about what I do. If you can feel good about the person who represents you, you gain trust. And I think I’ve done that. People have seen what I’m about and believe in what I’m trying to do as a community leader. I work hard to identify and address issues in a timely manner.
“We are looking at ways to improve processes in our office. We are doing some internal reviews of some policies and procedures to see if there are efficiencies that can be found and better practices to get the best bang for our buck. Two things we are working on are: first, amending the process of Town Manager selection. Second, because everyone wants information at their fingertips, we want to find ways to deliver that in the expected timely manner.”
But there are Challenges:
Rasch said he believes he has a good strategy in place to address the challenges of balancing the office of mayor, his family and his work.
Rasch enjoys working with people. Bringing together people with differing plans, priorities and agendas is what he likes to do. “Having four other opinions on council is a challenge; but having five united voices with one plan going forward is a success. It remains a goal I hold close. That’s a win!”
“I know the issues and am working on prioritizing them. Here they are: get a solid 5- and 10-year plan—currently, plans are not specific enough; proper infrastructure work; building key relationships where maybe none exist (i.e., businesses—difficult to access because they are so busy and they are not always heard enough); continue to work on trail and park development; continue to work on creating good relationships with neighboring communities; look at more marketing strategies that will enable Thorsby to grow and attract opportunity; look at revenue generating opportunities outside of taxation; continue to enhance the community visually; downtown revitalization needs a solid plan moving forward; businesses and residents need to feel their dollars are stretched to the maximum benefit; infrastructure replacement and road rehabilitation; continue to promote our recreational facility by maximizing its usage; get another subdivision started up as we are nearing our maximum residential lots capacity.”
Rasch believes in a holistic approach. “I’m not a one- or two-issue candidate. I will deal with all the issues in a fair manner and everybody will always have a chance to say what they want to say with me. We have various groups working hard in the community and they expect to have good leadership and unity in strong planning or events. I will bring that to the table. Strength comes in unity.”